Make a donation with PayPal, VISA, Mastercard, American Express, Discover cards - it's fast, free and secure!

Home Page

Nonprofit founded in 1988

About SEI

Culture Change Letter
via email
61 60 59 58 57 56 55 54 53 52 51 50 49 48 47 46 45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2 1  subscribe  index  feedback

Culture Change print magazine issues: 20  19  18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  9  8  index

Pedal Power solutions to petroleum dependence and polluting vehicles: Arcata Library Bikes, Pedal Power Produce, and more!

CAOE - Committee Against Oil Exploration - stop offshore oil drilling to protect sensitive habitats and cut petroleum dependence.

Culture Change through music! The Depavers eco-rock!

Take our Pledge for Climate Protection and learn about the Global Warming Crisis Council.

SEI hometown action!
Arcata city council's proclamation against war on Iraq and Kyoto Protocol proclamation.

Overpopulation has become a reality.  Overpopulation Resources and News Tidbits

Sail Transport Network

Fact Sheets
Press Releases

Long Distance


Index of articles

Why conserve while expansionist policies destroy?

by Virginia Abernethy, Ph.D.
Ecologists are strongly influenced by biology and many emerge from this academic discipline [and they] accept the concept of carrying capacity as essentially self-evident. The Earth is round and finite; so, therefore, must be its resources [as seen by] fisheries that have crashed; falling water tables in aquifers; topsoil loss; annual oil production greater than discoveries (therefore, declining real reserves); mass extinction of species; and compromised capacity to cope with atmospheric and water pollution...

Ecologists apply the lesson of the "tragedy of the commons" [where] universal access has major implications for the motivation to conserve because conservation depends upon self-restraint, saving a resource in order to enjoy or use it in the future. No one has the incentive to conserve a resource to which no one can be denied access, for the reason that those making the effort, or their descendants, are very unlikely to have much of the future benefit from their present sacrifices. In a commons, in fact, the better individual strategy is to use the resource as intensively and fast as one can. The maxim is, "Use it or lose it," with a vengeance...
Moral codes are subject to the possibilities inherent in a physically-
limited Earth

Preservation of carrying capacity, which is inherently limited, is fundamental for the present and future well-being of any nation. Over-taxing
the carrying capacity destroys, sometimes irremediably, the long-term ability of the resource base to sustain those who depend on it.
Ecologists see a direct threat to carrying capacity from increasing population size on the incentive system. Americans are disposed to conserve land that they own or control, to stabilize population through self-restraint in childbearing (the native-born fertility rate is below replacement level), to tax themselves for environmental rehabilitation efforts, and to mitigate ongoing environmental destruction. However, immigration makes the United States into an effective "commons," a condition
conducive to using resources as fast as possible lest one lose out on one's share.
If efforts to protect the carrying capacity are doomed to fail, anyway, because of continuing population growth, why conserve, why do without today, why support an environmental ethic? A case in point, to protest continuing
immigration, some Californians responded to water-use restrictions during the 1980s drought with the bumper sticker, "Flush Twice."
Unless reasonably assured that present and future benefit will accrue to themselves or  their posterity, few persons will forego present consumption or childbearing for the purpose of conserving the environment. This means that Americans' incentive to conserve the environment can probably be maintained only by offering hope that their efforts will not be in vain. Ecologists conclude that reducing immigration to the number compatible with stabilizing population size, or even allowing population decline should that prove necessary, is the only sustainable course.

Virginia Deane Abernethy, 2001. "Carrying capacity: the tradition and policy
implications of limits"  Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics. 2001: 9-18


Articles of interest:
Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results.  WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.

Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California . Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)



Culture Change/Sustainable Energy Institute mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change (Trademarked) is published by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) California non-stock corporation. Contributions are tax-deductible.